BUSINESSCommunityCover Story

Cover Story: Customer Service Every Ipohite Deserves

By Tan Mei Kuan, Nabilah Hamudin, Khaleeja Suhaimi and Amy Chan

Are you getting the service you deserve? In this issue we discuss face-to-face customer service in retail and F&B outlets in Ipoh from the perspectives of its service staff as well as consumers.

Our interest stems from the various laments we have received from Ipohites. “Once when I wanted to look for something in a mall and asked the staff for its location, they merely ignored me. At the counter when I was paying, only one or two counters were opened when there were other cashiers there but with the “lane closed” sign. What sort of customer service is this?” one housewife lamented.

Our Ipoh Echo’s resident Foodie SeeFoon, had a disappointing encounter at Jaya Grocer recently when a package of cream cheese accidentally dropped on the floor and spilled some of its contents as the plastic bag containing it gave way and tore. The item had just been paid for but the counter girl refused to replace it with a new one. SeeFoon then asked to see the manager and the girl slowly meandered to the back where after an inordinately long wait, See Foon left the shop in high dudgeon as the manager and the counter girl did not show up. “Is this the way, the supermarket hopes to thrive?” she huffed.

Customer Service – Can Make or Break a Business Entity

Giant (Falim)

“Giant” is a name familiar to most households and it is not a surprise given their popularity and we had the chance to interview Giant Falim’s Customer Service Team Leader, Anne Jesinta.

To the service staff and customer service team in Giant Falim, the customers are always right, following their slogan of “Customer 1st”. First and foremost, they will never avoid any customer. Instead, the service staff will try their best to cater to the customers’ needs.

“All of us are briefed in the morning on the do’s and don’ts in good customer service before we open for business,” she said when asked about how they are monitored for the upkeep of good customer service.

Giant Falim IpohGiant Falim Ipoh

“Another way we can monitor this ourselves is by distributing suggestion forms to the customers. This is how we constantly receive feedback regarding our customer service,” she added. The task of monitoring the service staff falls under the team leader.

A customer, who is a housewife, at Giant Falim reminisced to Ipoh Echo that she has had her own experiences of good customer services. She had purchased an item at the newly opened Giant at Falim that was different from what she had  seen in the pamphlet and wanted to return the product as well as get a refund.

“Other places will replace an item of equal value when they do not have the product I want. I am happy that they are willing to refund me my money,” she told Ipoh Echo. This, she said, is a very good example of excellent customer service.

Mydin (Meru)

Mydin Meru IpohFor Mydin,  good customer service means customers are satisfied with all that they provide. If customers happen to face a problem, the team is ready to help them out. Some of the services they provide include helping customers get the exact price during a promotion, refund, exchanging items if there is a problem, bringing customers’ items straight to their car and more.

Every time there is a new employee, be it a cashier or others, it is compulsory for them to attend an employee training. During the training which will be conducted by the headquarters of Mydin at the mall itself, the staff are trained to greet customers and constantly smile.

Apart from that, employees will also have to learn and understand about Mydin as a whole, their job on a daily basis, the importance of cleanliness in the industry and the right working ethics. They need to know the significance of handling customers well according to the different age groups. For example, senior citizens will be treated in a more gentle manner and heavy items will be carried by workers.

“We also help customers create a Mydin member card if they’re interested and will guide them through the whole point redemption process. What matters most to us is that customers leave with a smile, knowing that we have given our best service. Fulfilling a customer’s need is essential for us,” said Customer Service Associate, Hema a/p Sinnatamby.

According to Hema, if a customer launches a complaint, it will be issued to the respective department manager and branch manager for further notice and action.

“The last thing we’d want is to have an unhappy customer,” she continued.

Retiree couple, Richard and wife who shop for groceries every now and then, say that their experiences at Mydin vary.

“We come here for groceries as we live nearby. Once, when they didn’t have what we wanted, one of the workers suggested we look for it in Jaya Grocer instead. I think it’s a bold and genuine move. Not all workers would suggest another place, especially if they’re in the same field,” he exclaimed.

AEON (Kinta City)

Meanwhile, AEON CO. (M) Bhd spokesperson, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Ipoh Echo that the company’s principle in regards to customer service is to serve the ‘Customer First’.

She said, at all times, in every market, AEON’s activities are guided by its unchanging ‘Customer First’ philosophy.

Its aim is to surpass expectations by combining quality products with unique personal services that enhance the shopping experience to make customers smile every time they shop.

AEON Kinta City IpohAEON Kinta City Ipoh

When asked how they ensure excellent customer service is provided, she stated that AEON has made it mandatory for every retail employee to undergo stringent in-house training in order to enhance their skills.

According to her, the customer service practised by the company is synchronised with its strategy too.

“Our strategy is to establish a solid competitive position and achieve continuous growth. However, one of the key components underlying with our strategy is accelerating shopping centre development, where we channel our resources towards developing attractive, integrated commercial facilities which our customers can fully enjoy in a regional shopping centre and neighbourhood shopping centre. We want our customers to feel comfortable and always assisted by our staff during their shopping,” she said.

A 50-year-old teacher, Ahmad Hussaini Ahmad Hussein, told Ipoh Echo that he always buys his monthly groceries at AEON Klebang. Recalling his experience, he said that he is always satisfied with the customer service provided by the hypermarket.

One day, his wife and his daughter forgot to take a trolley after he purchased a television at the store. Then, a staff assisted him by getting one and sending the item he bought to his car.

“The staff even told my wife to come purchase the television on the day when she can get a voucher and reserved the television for my wife. We wouldn’t know about the voucher if he didn’t inform us about it. I really appreciate what the staff had done,” said Ahmad Hussaini.

The Happy 8 Café

Happy 8 IpohWinnie Lim who is part of the management team of The Happy 8 Café in Old Town explained, “For us,  friendly customer service is our priority. We treat our colleagues as family and have a meeting every Monday to boost morale or resolve any issue collectively.” The team also cultivates an atmosphere of love and tolerance at their workplace.

“The four main cores of our customer service policy are manners, punctuality, communication and hygiene. Upon receiving any complaint, we would first take the time to truly understand what is driving the customer’s concern. Then, we would improve accordingly. We will continue to devote our best efforts to offer excellent service,” she highlighted.

“Customer service is our priority because it makes a strong first impression. Thus, customers will remember us,” Winnie stated.

“I went to The Happy 8 Café with my friend for the first time ever in January. It was a pleasant experience as the workers were friendly. When we asked questions regarding their products, they explained in detail patiently. Our food and beverage were served quickly too,” 27-year-old Carol who works as a freelancer told Ipoh Echo.

Established in 2013, The Happy 8 Café is located at No 46, Market Street, 30000 Ipoh, Perak.

Tea. Warmer. Treat (TWT)

How does TWT define excellent customer service? “Always treat customers right and they will come back to your cafe again and again,” Stephanie Chai, who runs Tea. Warmer. Treat (TWT) together with her husband, pointed out.

Tea. Warmer. Treat (TWT)Tea. Warmer. Treat (TWT)

“We want our customers to feel welcome during their visit. Our service crew will greet them the minute they walk in the door. We will treat them with care and respect while providing an excellent meal. We also listen to their feedback and keep improving our service. Of course, smiling is always the key to a high quality service all the time,” she elaborated.

“Maintaining food quality is incredibly important as it is the main reason for our loyal customers to return to our cafe,” the amiable Stephanie added.

“My first ever visit to TWT was in June last year with a close friend. The waitress was kind to us. Thus, I recommended the cafe to my family and family friends. Later, I found out that they were also equally satisfied with TWT’s service,” Emily, a design engineer, enthused.

Another young Ipohite recalled, “Once I celebrated my friend’s birthday there. While plating up the dessert, the staff decorated the plate with a birthday message and a lighted candle. What a lovely touch!”

Established in 2014, the pork-free cafe is located at 30, Jalan Medan Ipoh 1D, Medan Ipoh Bistari, 31400 Ipoh, Perak.

Doi Chaang

Doi Chang IpohAs a well-known cafe and coffee shop, Doi Chaang believes in providing excellent customer service in a café through serving the best food and drinks. They also provide basic needs like water and try their best to meet customers’ demands, even if it means improvising on the menu. Some of the improvised meals they have prepared include dishes for vegetarians.

Of course in order to work in the cafe, there is training provided for both waiters and baristas. Both sides need to learn the overall concept, from food to coffee, to handling customers. Since coffee is their forte, they need to double check with customers on how they like their coffee and get the right amount of sugar (to be added or not) according to each customer’s preference. New employees will be trained by senior staff and the boss.

“The way we serve and talk to customers is really important. Some customers are slightly more demanding and we need to learn how to address them in the most respectful manner, without offending them. There’s also the right way to place a drink for customers on the table, and ensuring everything falls into place,” remarked barista Yun Xuan Lee.

For 25-year-old Kevin Wong who makes it a point to head to Doi Chaang for a cup of coffee every once in a while, said both the baristas and waiters are very passionate about their jobs.

“I love the cosy ambience here and how the staff greets me with joy every time I come here. As soon as I open the door, they smilingly greet my friends and I with a ‘Welcome’. I think it works wonders because a simple gesture like that could make a person’s day. Kudos to the team and I hope they keep up this joyful gesture,” he expressed.

Hello Elvis

Hello Elvis IpohThe owner of Hello Elvis, Linda Damanhuri stated that her cafe motto is always to provide her customers with personalised, impeccable and timely service.

She explained that in order to ensure providing excellent customer service to the customers, she or her staff would always personally ask for feedback from the customers and constantly monitor it.

“Customer service is as important as quality of products. This is the key to ensure continuity of great dining experience to the beloved customers.

“For me, language and communication are the challenges the team might face in delivering good customer service. Sometimes, miscommunication and cultural barriers are the factors too,” said Linda.

As for her cafe policy on difficult customers, she said her team will still treat them politely, no matter how difficult the situation is.

“If my staff can’t handle the situation, we as owners will manage the customer directly,” she said, adding that the staff are all aware that customer service is part of their job, as stated in their job description upon hiring.

Patisserie Boutique

Ipoh Echo had the opportunity to speak to the staff of Patisserie Boutique and asked their opinion regarding customer service.

They define customer service as customers’ satisfaction. To maintain the satisfaction, employees at the cafe have a simple and direct customer service policy. Their policy is to be friendly to customers and to always smile.

“We are constantly monitored to make sure that we stick to our policy. Every one of us is aware that giving good customer service is part of our job as service staff,” one of the staff members said. In addition, they often communicate with customers to seek feedback and suggestions on how to improve their customer service.

She added that customer service is very important when it comes to the food and beverage industry. Happy and satisfied customers will continue to return to pay homage when there is good customer service which in the long run ensures the loyalty of the customer base.

Though not very often, there are times when difficult customers visit. Luckily for Patisserie Boutique, 99 percent of their customers are always friendly.

“So far, I haven’t encountered any unpleasant experiences whenever I’ve been in Patisserie Boutique,” Alia, 21-year-old university student told Ipoh Echo.

She says that the staff at the café are friendly and considerate. They greet customers upon entering the cafe. A simple greeting is one that first attracts a customer when entering the cafe, all the more when a customer is going there for the first time.

“I am happy with the service they give to me. They will check in on me whenever I am there and ask me if everything is alright. They know what they are doing and it is a good thing. Some places have waiters and waitresses who do not even know their menu,” she commented.

Though she has yet to come across a food and beverage outlet which exceeds her expectations, she has said that Patisserie Boutique is one of her top favourites. The cafe is located along Jalan Sultan Yusuff.

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Tan Mei Kuan

Tan Mei Kuan graduated with first-class honours and book prize from University of Malaya majoring in languages and linguistics (English). She is proficient in both written and spoken English and Malay. She is also conversant in Mandarin and has knowledge of Japanese and Korean languages. Mei Kuan has been on the Dean’s List for three years running. Having written for the campus newspaper and residential college magazine, joining Ipoh Echo has helped utilise her writing and language skills. In her spare time she enjoys running (races).

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